Hiroyuki Ikuta - Japanese Textile Consultant 


Hiroyuki Ikuta spent twenty years working in textiles—mostly in sourcing and developing cotton for various top denim brands—before he began to really think about his legacy. “I’m 50 years old,” Ikuta told me in August: “I'm getting older, and I'm starting to feel more like I want to be a part of something constructive, for society, and for the environment.” Two decades in the fashion industry was long enough to see the toll that it took on the environment at large: the amount of water required by denim’s multiple washes; petroleum-based synthetic fibers produced for fabric blends; and the pesticides that went into and pollution that came out of the farming of the cotton itself. When organic cotton arrived on the market, Ikuta was temporarily cheered, and spent time involved in the marketing of it—but there, too, he saw the difficulty the market had with it, the time (and expense) it took farms to convert, and the reluctance that the consumers had to catch on to it in a way that would make much of a difference. Much like how the “sustainable” label trotted out by countless fashion brands can now sound devoid of any real meaning, cotton simply “going organic” eventually seemed much too little, too late. But then Citizens of Humanity group and Kiss the Ground came calling with a new proposal: regeneratively grown cotton. Putting his expertise to use in a way that could really aid the planet, rather than just sustain a broken system? “That could be why I was born,” says Ikuta.


Regenerative agriculture is a significant tool in the fight against climate change and the effects of global warming, Kiss the Ground Cotton’s website proclaims, citing how this style of farming has been proven to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and increase organic matter in the soil for a healthier, heartier, cooler planet. Unlike simply removing chemicals from the equation, à la organic farming, regenerative agriculture practices naturally feed the ground from which it takes, resulting in healthier, much more fertile and productive soil, increased water retention, reduced dependence on synthetic chemicals/pesticides, and improved biodiversity. “By changing the soil, it's building up the whole environment,” Ikuta says. And by targeting one of the most widely used textiles in the world, it goes far beyond the idea of simple “sustainability,” in regards to the current (broken) fashion system: “It's more like a new generation,” says Ikuta, “it’s a super important approach.” Kiss the Ground Cotton works with the regenerative farming consultancy Advancing Eco Agriculture in order to support farmers with the transition (typically the biggest hurdle with conversion), teaching them how to best adopt new practices, transform their farms, and even providing some financial help acquiring tools and biological materials as well as the cost of crop testing and price subsidies.


Still, there are hurdles ahead for Kiss the Ground cotton abroad. Japan like the rest of the world is a new market for regeneratively grown cotton. Organic cotton is currently certified by the government; a recognition which manufacturers have come to rely on, Ikuta learned when he went to introduce the KTG cotton concept to some manufacturers there in the spring. “All the questions I got from all these manufacturers were: oh, do you have the certification?”  “This is the only question I got from everybody, even though I explained that this is a new movement, and there are a couple of groups which are trying to establish a whole new structure,” he said. Educating manufacturers and consumers as well as proving the process to be a worthwhile and meaningful investment in the planet’s future will prove to be paramount, in his estimation.


That said, “I think the concept and result may be understood by the consumer very easily,” Ikuta says, “since the concept is very clear and very beneficial for everybody. Once this small movement is starting, it's going to be jumping up in a big way very quickly.” Many shoppers these days find themselves divided between the cost and convenience of fast fashion and wanting to feel a connection to the brands they support, Ikuta says. “They want to feel that this is something special.” Once the concept of regenerative agriculture is introduced, he says, he believes that they’ll start to demand it everywhere. “Even if we start very small. Compared to the other types of sustainability-focused, sustainable products, I think the movement will be growing, and even quicker than before.” The Asian market will follow suit, Ikuta believes, especially if it catches on in the U.S. He plans to expand the market in Japan by approaching manufacturers and brands—many of whom also have operations elsewhere in Asia— and developing regeneratively farmed fabrics with them.


One thing Kiss the Ground cotton has going for it off the bat? The name. Kiss the Ground is the kind of thing a young consumer would be excited to wear on a bag or their pocket, Ikuta says: “It’s beautiful.”






Jessica Chiartas - Research Director


Jessica Chiartas is a postdoctoral scholar with the Innovation Institute for Food and Health at the University of California, Davis, where she also completed her PhD in Soils & Biogeochemistry. Her research focuses on the long-term impacts of agriculture on soil health and overall ecosystem services, with a unique focus on soil carbon at depth. She is interested in better understanding soil health/regenerative agriculture on a soil type, cropping system, climate specific basis, as well as the standardization of metrics and methodologies for use in policy initiatives, economic markets, and other incentive programs.

She serves on the Soil Science Society of America Science Policy Committee, the North Coast Soil Health Hub Advisory Board, the ROC Soil Health Advisory Committee, and the Planet Fwd Advisory Board. She is the UC Davis partner member on the California Farm Demonstration Network, which brings together California Department of Food and Ag, UC Davis, UC Cooperative Extension, UC Ag and Natural Resources, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Resource Conservation Districts, and Farm Bureau to create a farmer-to-farmer network of discovery, support, and knowledge/information sharing. She is President and Lead Scientist for Regen1, a platform designed to connect purchasers to farmers and ranchers who are implementing regenerative practices, achieving regenerative outcomes, and providing verification of both. In collaboration with NRCS, she developed a website called Soil Life and a series of short videos and educational resources that educate, empower, and engage young people in positive soil- based solutions to global challenges.